How to Love America

Noah Millman proposes this (while meditating on G. K. Chesterton):

People feel an attachment, and a willingness to fight to protect, their homes, and their communities. That can take noble and ignoble forms — sometimes fighting to defend your community means committing injustice (as, for example, if you band together with your neighbors to prevent someone from a disfavored ethnic group from moving to the neighborhood). But the feeling is rooted in a direct experience, not an abstract attachment.

For any political community larger than a city, though, that attachment necessarily becomes abstract. So you need to teach your children why they should care about that larger community, be proud of it, and treat it as constituent of their identity.

Chesterton famously quipped that the sentiment, “my country, right or wrong” is like the sentiment, “my mother, drunk or sober.” But the thing about the latter is that she is your mother whether she’s drunk or sober — it’s just that your obligations change based on her condition. If she’s drunk, you won’t let her drive — instead, you’ll make sure she gets home safely.

The question, then, is how you teach your children to see their country as, in some sense, like a mother when their relationship is necessarily abstract rather than directly felt. A love of country based on the lie that your mother is never drunk will be too brittle to survive any kind of honest encounter with reality. But it seems to me equally problematic to say that you should love your country because it is on-balance a good one. Does anyone say about their mother that they love them because on-balance they are sober?

While Millman stresses the particular (a people, a place, a way of life — think baseball), Kevin DeYoung goes abstract and is thankful for the “idea” of America:

The United States of America began with the conviction that a nation should be founded upon truth. Not simply values or preferences, but upon truths. Self-evident truths that were true, are true, and will remain true no matter the time, the place, or the culture.

And central among these truths is the belief that all men are created equal. No one possesses more intrinsic worth for being born rich or poor, male or female, artisan or aristocracy. Of course, this truth, as much as any, unmasks our history of hypocrisy, for 3/5 of a person is an eternity from equality. But truth is still true. We all come into the world with the same rights and the same dignity–whether “gated community” in the world’s estimation or “trailer trash.”

These unalienable rights, we must note, are not granted by the Declaration of Independence. Our rights do not depend upon government for their existence. They are not owing to the largesse of the state or the beneficence of any institution. The rights of man are the gifts of God. The Creator endows; the state exists to protect. These unalienable rights can be suppressed or denied. But they cannot be annulled. We possess them–no matter what kings or parliaments say or presidents and congress decree–by virtue of being created in the image of our Creator.

Oh, by the way, if all humans have these rights irrespective of government, then how is that the basis for founding a nation? Didn’t this way of thinking lead in France to Napoleon’s wars to teach Europe liberty good and hard?

The thing is, if you stress ideas you wind up with a creedal nation, one that you tend to treat like a church, with people divided into the camps of orthodox and heretics, saints and pagans. Protestants suffer from this affliction and it shows in the recent anti-liberalism of Peter Leithart and Jake Meador.

Leithart took Matt Tuininga to task for turning Calvin into a liberal. Leithart added an objection to liberalism that fits with the nation-as-idea mentality:

Virtually none of liberalism’s theological critics objects to these forms and procedures as such. Their complaint isn’t against representative government or voting or freedom of speech and association. No one advocates a fusion of Church and state.

Rather, they claim that such a formal, procedural description masks the basic thrust of liberalism. Liberalism’s stated aim is to construct a society without substantive commitments, leaving everyone free to choose whatever his or her or hir own may be. Liberalism’s common good is to protect society from adopting any single vision of the common good. That’s a deviation from classical and traditional Christian politics (including Calvin’s), which sought to orchestrate common life toward a common end—the cultivation of virtue or the glory of God. In fact—and this is the other side of the critique—liberal societies do have substantive commitments. The liberal state pretends to be a referee, but beneath the striped shirt it wears the jersey of the home team. Under the cover of neutrality, liberal order embodies, encourages, and sometimes enforces an anthropology, ecclesiology, and vision of the good society that is often starkly at odds with Christian faith. Tuininga never confronts that line of analysis.

Since the U.S. is a liberal nation, it’s its liberal order becomes its an orthodoxy. But I thought the liberalism of the founders was not to form a society. They already had one — a people, a place, and a way of life. What they wanted was a liberal government, one that would not take sides in religion and other matters. If the U.S began to replace a liberal government with a liberal society, you could blame the centralizing and bureaucratizing effects of a national government that needed to organize the economy, schools, and industry to fight world wars, even cold ones. It really helps when the churches jump on the bandwagon and tell American officials the government is making the nation great.

Jake Meador thinks that the current spate of intolerance that liberals direct toward Christians is a function of liberalism itself:

If the move that western Christians attempt to make in response to all these challenges is to simply rebuild liberalism, then whatever victories we win will be short term. Liberalism is the soil from which the current regime has grown. It’s emphasis on individual autonomy and self-definition and the illegitimacy of unchosen authorities is precisely how we ended up where we are today.

So, two points: First, trying to Make Liberalism Great Again is probably no more realistic than trying to return America to the 1950s. In both cases, the order in question was the unique product of historical circumstances that our own era does not share. Thus any attempt to recreate said order is doomed to fail. Second, we need better language and concepts to make our case to both those within our church communities and those outside the church. Liberalism is not the way forward. It is the way toward further and deeper darkness. If we start thinking about common goods, shared life, and the neighborly arts, then we may be onto something. But all of these things, of course, assume a sort of communitarian sensibility that has always had a hard time reconciling itself to the deeply democratic, egalitarian nature of American Christianity. Therefore, whatever our project ends up being, it figures to be a long-term thing.

Meador should likely include Protestantism as the soil out of which liberal progressivism grew. Protestants were intolerant of Roman Catholics and other outsiders. Remember the threat that parochial schools posed to public ones and the way that American governments insisted no parochial school receive a whiff of public funding (still in the balance in SCOTUS’s recent Trinity Lutheran v. Comer decision). He has a point about “common goods, shared life, and the neighborly arts.” I wish he had included baseball and drip coffee makers. But why these way-of-life matters are at odds with liberalism baffles me.

A truly liberal government, like the one the founders hoped for, was one with a fairly small footprint within the broader American society. Government, in other words, is not society. Communities and people groups have existed within the terms set by the founders for better or worse for the better part of two centuries.

The challenge for the U.S. on this holiday of independence is to figure out how to separate the nation from the government, so that officials do somethings, people and communities do other, and we have a national identity that does not revolve around an idea like liberty and justice for all, and the military campaigns that justify such abstract convictions.

To paraphrase Meador, Americanism or the liberal international order that the U.S. has maintained in its capacity as leader of the free world is not the way forward, at least for building attachments to the nation. We still need less national government, more attachments to people, places, and the ways of life that emerge from them.

With Friends Like These

Matt Tuininga qualifies and then insinuates:

we cannot simply take Calvin’s thought and apply it to our own time without substantial reflection. Calvin assumed the existence of Christendom. We inhabit a pluralistic society increasingly devoted to secular liberalism. There are self-proclaimed two kingdoms advocates today who would claim the two kingdoms distinction calls us to keep religion and politics entirely separate, as if they are hermetically sealed realms that have nothing to do with each other. Yet such is clearly a distortion of Calvin’s thought, which is decisively rooted in the New Testament’s rich distinction between the present age and the age to come.

Does he have Machen in mind?

In the second place, you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning aside from its proper mission. . . .

To advance the conversation, why not comment on whether the deaconate should do medicine as Calvin recommended:

The fourth order of ecclesiastical government, namely, the deacons

There have always been two kinds of these in the early Church. One has to receive, distribute and care for the goods of the poor (i.e. daily alms as well as possessions, rents and pensions); the other has to tend and look after the sick and administer the allowances to the poor as is customary. [In order to avoid confusion], since we have officials and hospital staff, [one of the four officials of the said hospital should be responsible for the whole of its property and revenues and he should have an adequate salary in order to do his work properly.]

Concerning the hospital

Care should be taken to see that the general hospital is properly maintained. This applies to the sick, to old people no longer able to work, to widows, orphans, children and other poor people. These are to be kept apart and separate from others and to form their own community.

Care for the poor who are scattered throughout the city shall be the responsibility of the officials. In addition to the hospital for those visiting the city, which is to be kept up, separate arrangements are to be made for those who need special treatment. To this end a room must be set apart to act as a reception room for those that are sent there by the officials..

Further, both for the poor people in the hospital and for those in the city who have no means, there must be a good physician and surgeon provided at the city’s expense…

As for the plague hospital, it must be kept entirely separate.

Instead of looking at the theory (theology), why not look at the circumstances and sciences that have differentiated a host of life’s affairs so that the church and religion is one among many spheres of life? But Lordship of Christ folks think, like Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy, that the direct pipeline of Christianity to God trumps most spheres so that Christians have authority in medicine, biology, history, and dog-catching by virtue of — what? — faith.

2kers want answers. Simply repeating inspiring calls to engage the world doesn’t give them.

It’s Only Politics

Matt Tuininga echoes the idea that politics is evidence of sanctification (integration of faith and life and all of that):

Will Republican evangelicals who see their sisters and brothers – their political opponents – wounded and beaten on the other side of the road and cross over to take up their need as their own, in the spirit of the good Samaritan? Will they stand with them in solidarity, pleading their cause as if it were their own? Will Democratic evangelicals who feel beaten and betrayed accept such an effort at reconciliation and love in a spirit of gospel hope? Will they stand in solidarity with their evangelical opponents, pleading their cause as if it were their own? Do we have the humility to recognize that our own political judgments might not reflect the whole picture, that they might even be wrong?

Bill Smith in his curmudeonly way says, no thanks:

Blacks and other minorities have experienced abuse. Blacks in particular can identify with Israel, an enslaved and abused minority in Egypt. Unfortunately white evangelical Christians have themselves been the abusers of African Americans or failed to speak up against their abuse. White evangelicals have aligned themselves with the Republican Party which has not been sympathetic with the concerns of minorities but rather has become a home of racists and nationalists. Lately, however, there has been progress as black and white Christians have worked toward racial reconciliation. But this election has exposed the reality that white evangelicals have not come so far as black evangelicals hoped. The black minority feel they have been betrayed by white evangelicals who voted for Trump.

. . . The perspective of these brothers is the same as that of Falwell, Kennedy, Criswell, and the Moral Majority. They were on God’s side, and God was on their side. Their champion was Ronald Reagan. The election of Reagan moved forward the cause of Christ and his kingdom.

These brothers believe that God is on their side and they on God’s. Their cause(s) is the cause of the kingdom of God. To them Trump was not just someone they disagreed with but the enemy of the kingdom of God. The 80% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump voted against the interests of the kingdom of God, betrayed their black brothers and sisters (who ask, “How could you?”), and proved themselves unreliable allies in the righteous causes highest on the list of black priorities.

All this was hogwash in the days of Falwell, and it’s all hogwash today. This is not about Christian theology or practice. It’s politics. That’s all it is. Just politics. The joy that the Moral Majority felt when Reagan triumphed was not righteous joy but political joy. The grief felt by these black brothers is not righteous grief but political grief. The reason most white evangelicals voted for Trump is that most white evangelicals are conservatives and Republicans. The reason these black evangelical brothers feel betrayed is because they are liberals and Democrats.

If only we could treat politics like plumbing. But no. Politics has to be a high and holy calling. What we are seeing is the result of all that every-square inch argument. And it’s not helpful for the nation or — get this — for the church. But it does allow evangelical academics to feel pious.

Is Universal Suffrage One of the Benefits that Accompany or Flow from Justification, Adoption, and Sanctification?

Matt Tuininga is back to remind us of how far short the contemporary advocates of the spirituality of the church (SpofCh) fall. In this case, the proponents of 2k and SpofCh are in solidarity with the southern Presbyterian opponents of integration who formed the PCA. That’s sort of like the students at Princeton who liken the university’s faculty to the KKK on the spectrum of institutional racism. Here’s the key Tuininga challeng:

Until advocates of the doctrine of the spirituality of the church (not to mention advocates of two kingdoms theology) come to grips with the social implications of the spiritual gospel they will not be able to make the necessary distinction between inappropriate meddling in civil and political affairs (which they rightly criticize) and the church’s responsibility to proclaim the full scope of the gospel, with all of its social implications (which duty they avoid). Until we understand how the spirituality doctrine not only permits the use of church discipline and the diaconate to promote the justice and righteousness of the kingdom, but requires it, we have not grasped just what it is that spirituality means. To politicize the church is surely a horribly misguided attempt to manipulate the Spirit for our own purposes, but to muzzle the Spirit or partition the social dimension of human life from the gospel is hardly less a display of rebellion.

So the question for Tuininga is whether social advances like the civil rights movement or integration are parts of the coming of the kingdom of Christ. For instance, one of the great achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights advocates was the Voters Rights Act which prohibited local and state policies that prevented African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.

That was not the only time that suffrage included more Americans. The Puritans restricted suffrage to members of congregations, and only when Massachusetts Bay became more secular (less controlled by Christian norms) did the franchise extend to residents who were not church members. Even then, property holdings were necessary to qualify for the vote.

More recently, the nineteenth Amendment prohibited restrictions on voting based on sex.

The question for Tuininga is whether the churches should have endorsed these enlargements of the franchise? If so, why does he not complain about the Puritans who were comfortable with restricting suffrage, or the mainline churches who for so long said nary a word about women not having the right to vote?

Or could it be that most policies and laws are not benefits of the gospel the way that assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace and perseverance of the saints accompany and flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? Is it also the case that if you can tell the difference between voting in a democracy and peace of conscience, you actually know what the spirituality of the church is?

So I throw the challenge back to Tuininga: until he can show that certain social reforms are evidence of the gospel, he needs to come down from his high horse about the deficiencies of the spirituality of the church and its proponents. I, for one, would love to believe that prison reform and abandonment of the War on Drugs as federal policy are part of “the transforming impact of the gospel.” But I have a hard time understanding how policies reformed and prisoners freed are signs of the coming of the kingdom when the people reforming the policies and the ex-cons don’t confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

Collective Guilt

At first I thought I was clear because I’m not Tim Bayly, Tim Keller, or PCA:

Bayly Blog has published a piece by Lucas Weeks, an assistant pastor at Clearnote Church, in which he argues that the root of abortion is feminism. He contends that the PCA soft-peddles feminism; thus the PCA is complicit in the acceptance of and practice of abortion. The PCA needs to repent:

We must never forget that the blood sacrifice for feminism is abortion, and if we really desire to live in a nation free from the bloody slaughter of abortion, we must repent of our feminism. Regardless of the brand of feminism we’re talking about, the vampire that has been feeding on the blood of our children for decades was unleashed by our sexual sin and our rebellion against the very simple and easy to understand words of Scripture regarding manhood and womanhood. Whether it’s the hard-core leftist feminism of Camille Paglia and Sallie Tisdale, or the soft-peddled feminism that’s increasingly common in the PCA, or even the Sarah Palin style of feminism within the GOP, the rejection of God’s clear Word is the same.

In the discussion that followed among those who have not offended the patriarchs of patriarchy to the point of being banned one brother questioned Weeks’ words about the PCA. This provoked Fr. Tim himself to write even stronger words, taking aim at one of his favorite targets, Tim Keller:

To say that conservative Reformed denominations like the PCA are responsible for the continuation of abortion in our country is an unassailable truth, as I see it. The most influential pastor of the PCA brags about not preaching against abortion and claims this is an effective tool in opposing abortion. But of course, every pastor knows why we avoid preaching against abortion, and it’s not because we believe it’s an effective technique in stopping abortion.

So that pastor and all the many pastors who mimic him in his conflict avoidance are responsible for little babies being killed in their congregations who would have lived had their pastors warned their mothers and fathers (and grandmothers and grandfathers) not to murder their unborn. As Pastor Weeks wrote, this is the fruit of feminism. Preaching against abortion is seen as anti-women’s-rights and male pastors will do almost anything to avoid any accusation that we’re anti-women’s-rights.

Then I was feeling pretty good that it’s okay that I’m not nice (which Mrs. Hart has long known but the cats, Kibbles prostitutes that they are, don’t):

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the qualities of fleshly, worldly people with the qualities of Spirit-filled, godly people. He lists the fruit of the Spirit, those character traits that ought to mark God’s people, saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23). Conspicuously absent from Paul’s list is niceness. Kindness is there; patience and gentleness too. But not niceness.

But then I had a wake-up call. Even though I am a Canadian trapped in an American body, I am still an American and have bigger problems:

Today is the seventieth anniversary of Hiroshima. On this day, seventy years ago, the United States used an atomic bomb in warfare for the first time in history. Another would follow, dropped on Nagasaki three days later. It is no exaggeration to say that since that time the world has been fixated on making sure that no nuclear weapon is ever used again. At this very time the American Congress debates whether or not to support President Obama’s recent agreement with Iran, designed to prevent Iran from attaining the capability the United States already used against Japan a lifetime ago.

The single bomb used on this day, August 6, was not used against a military target. It was dropped on an urban area, a major population center with hundreds of thousands of civilians, including the elderly, women, and children. Some 85,000 people were killed either instantly or within the first day. Many, many more died in the days and months following. Within four months the death toll reached as high as 165,000, the vast majority of whom were civilians. For the survivors, that was just the beginning of the ordeal. . . .

In fact, both arguments – that the United States was justified in using the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and that the United States is justified in bombing Iran should it develop nuclear weapons today – are flatly contradictory to classic Christian just war theory. This is hard for patriotic American Christians to admit, but it is no less clear for that.

Matt Tuininga’s point — if he is correct about just war and the bomb — that sin is deep and profound is a good one, though I’m not sure why he thinks a social gospel will remedy the social aspects of sin. We live on this side of racism, segregation, slavery, and Hiroshima. A society or group cannot go back to a point of prior innocence. History does not work that way. Maybe we simply have to live in a perpetual state of knowing we are guilty and our only hope is a glorified existence. (Imagine what that sense would to outrage porn.)

But the earlier thought that I was without sin, and the later recognition of my guilt, did make me wonder about the propriety of such public calls for repentance. If we have no possible way of making restoration, then what good is the call for repentance other than saying something about the caller? Isn’t the caller as guilty as I am? So why is he throwing the first stone?

Politics of Inclusion

Matt Tuininga calls for the gospel politics of inclusion even while excluding some — ahem — from the Reformed camp. But let’s not go there.

Let’s go instead to an apparent confusion of categories that invariably happens when you make the gospel (Jesus Christ died for sinners, there’s not one square inch, man’s chief end is to glorify God — which is it?) the basis for society. (And if the gospel is the basis for society, where are non-Christians supposed to go? Theonomy with a smile and a hug is still a state that makes little room for non-Christians.)

A few excerpts:

Embracing the call to be conformed to the image of Christ means not that we parade around trumpeting the lordship of Christ, but that, like Christ, we take up the form of a servant, humbling ourselves if necessary even to the cross. Thus we fulfill the law not by enforcing its every jot and tittle at the point of the sword, excluding from the political community those who refuse to tow the cultural, moral or religious line, but by loving and serving those with whom God has placed us in community, paying particular attention to the needs of the poor and the weak, the marginalized and the oppressed.

So what does this say about immigration policy and undocumented aliens? Is the gospel thing to do, the inclusive policy, to include immigrants? Or might a recognition of national sovereignty, strains on certain communities, the good of the economy, cause politicians to take factors other than the gospel into account?

Another excerpt:

It is true that the Gospel does not immediately erase all distinctions of nation, gender, or economic status, but it is equally true that the unity of all things in Christ does call for the rejection of their unjust abuses. It is true that we must be realistic about what can be achieved through politics, but our realism should lead us to champion the weak rather than the strong who oppress them under the cover of law. It is true that we may not be silent about what God’s Word teaches, even when it comes to such controversial matters as human sexuality, but it is equally true that our judgment regarding how God’s will should take expression in politics is fallible, that we must learn to love, serve and work with fellow citizens who disagree with us, and that our public rhetoric is only Christian if it is infused with the grace of Christ. Finally, it is true that salvation only comes to those who place their faith in Christ, and about that we must always be clear, but it is equally true that as believers we are called to embody that salvation socially by bearing one another’s burdens, forgiving one another’s transgressions, and caring for one another’s needs.

Unjust abuses? Did Christ reject the cross, which was unjust? Did he tell Christians to turn the other cheek? Does that mean an end to capital punishment? But what about prisons? Don’t they receive persons we “exclude” from civil society?

Learn to work with fellow citizens with whom we disagree? Is bi-partisanship really a gospel imperative when practically every oped writer for the Times and the Post promotes crossing the aisle in Congress? Do we need to gussy up bi-partisanship with the gospel? Is that why Christ died?

Bearing one another’s burdens? So a Christian politician should have banks forgive all debts?

One more except from another piece on “gospel” politics:

. . . the gospel should affect social structures of nation, race, gender and class. It should call us to organize these structures, as much as possible given the constraints of the present evil age, in light of what the gospel teaches us about human dignity, about justice, and about love. That requires wrestling with the nature of each type of human relationship that involves some sort of inequality or hierarchy. . . .

There are several types of social relationships. Some of them, such as marriage and the relationship between parents and their children, are grounded in creation and ought to be protected and promoted by human beings. The key questions here revolve around how to preserve these relationships in ways that acknowledge the fundamental spiritual and moral equality between men and women, between adults and children. Obviously parents must be in authority over their children, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to treat their children like slaves or property. Men and women will typically perform different gender roles by virtue of their different embodied nature, but that doesn’t mean men should domineer over women.

There are other types of relationships that are not rooted in creation but that have emerged, at least in the form that we know them, due to the fall into sin. They are not evil, but their very form demonstrates that evil does exist in the world. Here I am thinking about the coercive state. Christians should support this sort of hierarchy because it is absolutely necessary for a modicum of order in this life, let alone for human flourishing. But questions remain. How do we set up political authority such that it is not tyrannically abused? How do we ensure that those who rule are held accountable to those who are ruled? How do we ensure that even where there is political inequality, all recognize a more fundamental level of moral and spiritual equality?

I’m not sure that Calvin or any of the Reformers were fans of equality. Again, a Reformed source like the Larger Catechism (but maybe the Dutch don’t consider the British Reformed) makes quite a lot of hierarchy and inequality in social stations:

Q. 127. What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

Q. 128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking, and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.

In fact, I wonder if Matt knows how much his logic about the future reality of the new heavens and new earth breaking in to present social arrangements was one of the most used theological rationales for ordaining women in the CRC. That’s not a scare tactic. It’s only an instance of where an egalitarian stance can lead, especially one that doesn’t recognize differences among church, society, and family (sphere sovereignty anyone).

But when the gospel becomes the modifier, out goes all the differentiation that makes modern society run (and makes it secular). Matt asks, “How do we set up political authority such that it is not tyrannically abused?” Studying the framers of the U.S. Constitution might be a better place to start than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Still not sure what gospel Matt is proclaiming in his social gospel mode.

Postscript: apologies for the image to those with weaker consciences, but sometimes it’s good to be remembered of what happens to women in combat — their dresses fall off.

Piling On

So thanks to Matt Tuininga’s critique of Scott Clark and mmmmmeeeEEEEEE, Stephen Wolfe adds to Clark’s and my misery:

I think that Matthew Tuininga has made a valuable correction to D.G. Hart and R. Scott Clark who seem to find no social value in Christian sanctification. Would not our conformity to the image of the Last Adam have social implications? Of course, it would. The fundamental problem with the Hart-Clark 2k theology is their failure to recognize that the Gospel, which includes sanctification, restores the Adamic dominian. As J Peter Escalante and Steven Wedgeworth have made abundantly clear, “man’s Adamic dominion has been in principle restored in Christ.” This means, so it seems to me, that sanctification includes a conformity to the original Edenic order and a restoration toward the original mandate to bring, through human creativity and work, creation to its potential maturity. This has nothing to do with immanentizing the eschaton, as Eric Voegelin warned against. It means rather that the Gospel empowers Christians to work toward the realization of a mature natural order.

But just when Mike Horton and Dave VanDrunen thought they were on comfortable chairs in the bus terminal (oxymoron alert), a quick google search reveals that they are just as bad — maybe worse:

VanDrunen contends that the cultural mandate was given as a condition through which Adam would inherit eternal life for himself and his offspring. This activity of Adam was temporal, only given by God in preparation for the Sabbath rest in which he would partake through his obedience. He purports that because Christ is the last Adam, such a cultural mandate is no longer a necessity for those who are in Christ. He argues: “To understand our own cultural work as picking up and finishing Adam’s original task is, however unwittingly, to compromise the sufficiency of Christ’s work” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, 50). To be clear, VanDrunen emphasizes the importance of the Christian’s vocation in the secular realm, but views it as only temporary, and he disconnects it from the mandate given to Adam.

What VanDrunen fails to recognize is that God created humankind to live within two particular sets of relationships: to God, and to creation. In his approach, for Adam, the cultural mandate has coram deo implications. Adam’s standing before God prior to the fall was not based on grace and faith, but instead upon his obedience in fulfilling the God-given mandate. This is, of course, based upon VanDrunen’s commitment to the Reformed concept of the covenant of works in the Garden of Eden (an idea that I have critiqued here). The problem is that the text of Genesis never makes such a connection. Nowhere in the creation account is Adam told that his standing before God could somehow be merited by obedience to this mandate. Rather, Adam’s creation was an act of grace. His relationship to God was always based on God’s action and his reception. Sure, he could lose his righteous standing before God, but he couldn’t gain it by merit.

The implications of this difference of perspective are important. If Adam’s relationship before God has always been by grace, and man’s relationship to creation has always been determined by the mandate of Genesis 1:28, then the cultural mandate is no longer simply part of the Adamic administration, but is essential to who the human creature is.

So I wonder how widely Matt has read VanDrunen and Horton. The more people under the bus, the more misery.